Another Flash of Brilliance

Texas Tech rebounded from a tough loss to Pittsburgh the night before to handily defeat Houston 76-64 Tuesday in the consolation game of the Progressive Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.

Okay, so maybe a 12-point win over a so-so Houston team on a neutral court doesn't quite qualify as brilliant. But for a Texas Tech team on its fourth coach in as many seasons, and on the heels of a humbling, demoralizing beat-down at the hands of Pitt, it was pretty darned good.

The Red Raiders (5-2) were almost as good against Houston as they were bad against Pittsburgh. Tech led from the opening tip to the final buzzer, and except for one serious charge by Houston early in the second half, was never really threatened by the Coogs.

One indicator of Tech's dominance was their control of the glass. The Red Raiders, hardly ever a backboard juggernaut over the last three-plus decades, owned Houston by a 46-26 count on the glass. Tech actually allowed 14 offensive rebounds, but because of their good defense and some wild shots by Houston, countered that by collecting 32 defensive boards. The Red Raiders also pulled down 14 offensive rebounds of their own.

Perhaps as a sign that Tubby Smith really wanted this one, he shortened his rotation and went with his big guns as much as possible. The only bench player who saw big minutes was off guard/small forward Toddrick Gotcher who netted 23 minutes and rewarded his coach with 16 points, three rebounds and a team high four assists. Expect him to start on Friday against UTSA.

Jordan Tolbert, who stayed out of foul trouble for once, allowed Smith to stick with the short rotation. And he also helped out his coach by scoring a quiet 14 points on six-of-nine shooting and pulling down six rebounds.

Jaye Crockett did, however, slip into foul trouble, but still managed to play 29 minutes, scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the process. Except for a couple of bumbling turnovers where he stepped on the baseline, Crockett was the best player on the court.

"Coming from yesterday, we just wanted to come here and get a win," Crockett said. "It was a horrible loss (last night) and we just wanted to put that behind us and come out and end on a positive note going back home. Everyone came out ready to play; shots were just falling tonight for us, and we did some good things both offensively and defensively."

When the Red Raiders were their finest in this one, they played aggressively without playing dumb. There's a fine line between the two.

In the first half it was all aggression for Tech. The Red Raiders, with Robert Turner in the van, repeatedly took it to the Coogs on fast breaks, scoring buckets and drawing fouls. Jordan Tolbert made a few nifty and quick spin moves that got him to the hoop. And despite the aggression, Red Raider turnovers were minimal.

That all changed in the second half when Tech crossed over from aggressive to dumb. Turner and Gotcher forced shots. Crockett had a couple of quick turnovers. And Tolbert committed a foul away from the ball that negated a Dusty Hannahs three-pointer. Houston scored on the other end, and what should have been a 17-point bulge was 12 instead with about 16 minutes left to play.

Inexorably—and you knew they would—the Cougars clawed chunks out of Tech's lead, narrowing the gap to 53-48 with 12:05 to play. But just in the nick of time, the Red Raiders regained their poise, hit their free throws (82 percent of them, to be precise), and coasted to a much needed victory.

Outside of a 22-point win over Northern Arizona, this was Tech's most impressive performance of the season. When Tolbert stays out of foul trouble, Turner gets off to a good start, and Tech gets good productivity from one of its shooting guards, the Red Raiders will be good enough offensively to hang with most teams they play.

"I thought our guys did some good things. We dominated the boards and that is something we have been struggling with," Smith said. "I thought we were doing a good job of taking care of the ball in the first-half, and then in the second-half we started to cough it up a lot. You have to give credit to Houston because they are a pretty talented and athletic team. We are looking to build on tonight's game and I was glad to see our guys defensively step up. That was the key, holding them to .350 shooting. We really did some good things defensively and that is how we have to play."

Tech is back in action on Friday night at 7 p.m. central time when the UTSA Road Runners pay a visit to United Spirit Arena.

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